Solar wins over investors but strong policy still elusive

The global solar market is “entering a new technology generation and a new market generation” according to Michael Geyer, business development boss at Spain’s Abengoa Solar.

Geyer was speaking at a panel discussion on the opening day of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi this week, where he said that both PV and CSP solar could look forward to a bright future – not least because more investors had faith in t solar he sector.

“The money is out there,” he said. “We have gained the confidence of investors and lenders – they are confident in the technology.”

Andreas Heidelberg, head of technology at Masdar PV, said the reaching of grid parity in a number of regions in 2013 was a defining moment for solar, but he added that the market was still being hindered by uncertainty from policymakers.

“There is no stability in policies and this leading to oversupply and a strong decline in prices. For 2014, I see that overcapacity will still persist but we are getting to a price level where it won’t decline – the market will stabilise”.

Matt Campbell, senior director at SunPower Corp in the US, agreed that the reaching of grid parity “was a milestone in 2013” and he predicted that 2014 would see “a lot of new countries responding to the changes in solar PV”.

Sam Sakir, chief executive of Areva Solar in France, agreed with Heidelberg that what was needed to keep momentum in the market was a shift in policymaking.

“Policy in various regions needs to be forward thinking. With policy comes investment and from there you have the cut and paste effect: what is successful for one project is transferred to another.”

At another debate on solar later that day, the focus of geographical attention was on the Middle East, where, according to Tarek El Sayed, vice-president of Lebanon’s Booz & Co, “solar is not theory anymore – projects are there and momentum is building”.

Delegates heard that the UAE dominates the MENA region for solar, with 140 MW currently operational from 58 projects, including the region’s 100 MW solar poster child, Shams 1, which went operational last year.

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